Dubai: As the UAE strives to hit high on the happiness scale, wellness tourism continues to gain momentum at a time when stress-related ailments are on the upswing.
According to a report released by Colliers Experiential Travel Series earlier this year, the UAE led the charge in the Middle East wellness tourism market, with an average of 1.7 million trips generating $2.7 billion (Dh9.9 billion) annually.
Dubai rolled out a series of initiatives to tap into this growing market with the launch of its DXH (Dubai Health Experience) programme in April 2016 by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai. The programme was introduced to support its “Dubai, a Global Destination for Medical Tourism” project.
DXH aims to promote Dubai as a global centre for the provision of medical tourism services with a target of attracting half a million international patients by 2020.
Lending weight to this drive is a sprawling Dh700 million wellness resort that is scheduled to open its doors on October 1 on The Palm Jumeirah, with a focus on mind-body balance.
The 255-room Retreat Palm Dubai MGallery by Sofitel is positioning itself as the “first holistic well-being resort” in the region and is an initiative by the DXH in conjunction with the Dubai Health Authority (DHA).
Speaking to Gulf News, the resort’s General Manager, Samir Arora, said: “The Retreat is the first of its kind resort in the GCC, with a sole focus on holistic living. From our architecture which is designed around the Chinese concept of Feng Shui, right to our food and beverage needs, which is 90 per cent organic, everything is catered towards wellness.”
He explained that the property will also house the world’s first Rayya Wellness Centre, a home-grown brand that will offer wellness packages for adults and children, including weight management, along with housing a spa, a recreational centre and a nutrition clinic.
Under the Accor Hotels umbrella, this property also marks the entry of the first MGallery brand in the region, which, Arora said, is targeted towards the solo female traveller.
He explained: “The MGallery concept is divided into three different hotel concepts, namely Signature, Heritage and Serenity hotels. While The Retreat falls under the Serenity sub-brand, there is room to expand on the MGallery concept further within the UAE.”
When quizzed, Arora admitted “active discussions” were underway for other properties in the country, but declined to comment further.
The opening of the beachfront property has been delayed, he revealed, but a soft opening for The Retreat is underway.
“Room sales have already commenced through travel agencies, with our biggest source markets being Germany, followed by Russia and the UAE,” he stated, adding: “Saudi Arabia also holds a lot of potential for growth in the coming months.”
Arora explained that 200-odd wellness related activities will be offered at the property, along with specialised detox programmes that will include packages starting with two nights, three-day retreats where guests can sign up for weight loss, yoga, fitness and more.
As this tourism drive continues to draw in the numbers, the DHA estimates that by 2021, more than 1.3 million medical tourists will visit the emirate alone.